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April 18, 2014

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Aerosmith’s Joe Perry prefers smaller venues for Project

His band, independent of erratic Aerosmith, is back on the road

Image

Leila Navidi

Joe Perry, rock ‘n’ roll lead guitarist.

Aerosmith at MGM Grand

Joe Perry, Steven Tyler, spot-lit. Launch slideshow »

Tyler not quitting Aerosmith

If You Go

  • What: The Joe Perry Project
  • When: 8 p.m. Nov. 28
  • Where: House of Blues
  • Tickets: $28.50 to $33.50; 632-7600

Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry was on the phone to talk about his other band, the Joe Perry Project, which is coming to Las Vegas.

Perhaps he was just his usual laid-back self, but Perry sounded too exhausted to sound excited.

Speaking by phone from his Boston home after returning from a blowout of a concert in Abu Dhabi, he had just learned that lead singer Steven Tyler had thrown the legendary rock group into turmoil by quitting.

Not just quitting, but letting his bandmates of 40 years learn about his decision in an interview they saw online. When asked about his future during an interview with Britain’s Classic Rock magazine, Tyler said he was going to be “working on the brand of myself — Brand Tyler.”

“Steven quit as far as I can tell,” Perry told the Las Vegas Sun, saying the singer wasn’t returning phone calls. “He’s notorious for that. That’s one thing I’ve learned to live with. I try to overlook it.”

Perry’s remarks were reported on the Sun’s Web site on Nov. 6 and picked up by the national media, sending out shock waves among Aerosmith fans.

Four days later Tyler surprised everyone by jumping onstage during a Joe Perry Project concert in New York City. He performed “Walk This Way” and proclaimed, “I am not leaving Aerosmith.”

Phew, reported Rolling Stone and other music sites. Aerosmith is saved.

Maybe, Perry told People.com. Seems that Tyler did his guest spot and left the stage without talking to the guitarist. “Things are still up in the air,” Perry said of Aerosmith’s fate. “He appeared so fast and was gone so fast. Nothing has really changed between two days ago and today.”

The relationship between Tyler and the group is slightly dysfunctional, to say the least.

The latest chapter was an embarrassing follow-up to Tyler’s ignominious tumble off the stage at a concert in Sturgis, S.D. He broke his shoulder and forced the band to cancel dates.

When asked by the Sun about speculation that Tyler’s latest rehab didn’t take, that he’s under the influence of one substance or another, Perry responded with a question of his own:

“What do you think?”

Perry was low-key during our interview, seething in a subdued tone as he talked about Aerosmith and its future. He was more philosophical when he discussed his solo act, the Joe Perry Project, which will perform on Nov. 28 at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay.

He said he’d weather the most recent storm, bringing up a decades-old epiphany, when he realized how transient life could be.

“Something had happened, a canceled gig or something, and I realized how fragile everything can be,” he said. “It’s just so easy to get used to things to being normal, all you need is something to hit you and you realize how tenuous life is. Even something like a rock show, you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

“Take the last two days as an example. We had no idea he was going to pull something like that — so 20 years ago I decided I was going to play each show like it would be the last one.”

Whether Aerosmith has performed its final concert won’t be known until the smoke has cleared, though Perry wants it to survive.

But the Joe Perry Project lives on.

The Project was born in 1979 when Perry decided to leave the group and go solo for a couple of years. His band lasted five years.

Perry released three albums during that period: “Let the Music Do the Talking,” “I’ve Got the Rock ’n’ Rolls Again” and “Once a Rocker, Always a Rocker.” In 1999 he released “The Music Still Does the Talking: The Best of the Joe Perry Project.”

Perhaps anticipating troubled seas ahead, Perry dusted off the Project this year. On Oct. 6, The Joe Perry Project released “Have Guitar, Will Travel” and is touring the country promoting the album.

“I will concentrate on the Joe Perry Project until Aerosmith is sorted out,” he said. “Right now all I can do is count on putting on the best shows I can.”

The good news for fans is that the Joe Perry Project is playing smaller venues like the House of Blues instead of arena shows. Aerosmith performed before 500,000 fans in Abu Dhabi.

“Actually Aerosmith has played House of Blues a couple of times,” Perry said. “Those are my favorite places to play. I do like the MGM Grand Garden Arena, it’s a nice venue and has room for all kinds of performances. But I really like that size venue” at the House of Blues.

“It’s the kind of the size venues where I used to see the Who and Fleetwood Mac back when I was learning all about rock ’n’ roll, seeing all those British bands coming over, doing what they were doing. It just seemed to be the best venue. When you play big venues you have to make a lot of compromises.

“You end up playing to the first 10 rows, anyway, which is what I do.”

In the arenas, he said, you can lose contact with the audience. Large screens have helped.

“Before you had them to amplify the visuals, you were just a speck on stage to the people way off in the back,” he said. “A venue like the House of Blues is best for both the audience and the artist.”

In October Perry performed with “Slash and Friends” at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Mirage. In addition to Perry, Slash was joined in concert by Rob Zombie, Tommy Lee, Courtney Love, Matt Sorum, Rick Nielsen and others.

“That was fun,” he said. “I was really loose. It’s what rock ’n’ roll is all about.

“With my band, a couple of the songs we don’t even have arrangements for, so the songs turn out different every time we play them. We try to top the last night’s performance. It’s kind of like living on the edge.”

The edge may be his most comfortable spot, so he isn’t too concerned about what lies ahead, whether it be Aerosmith or his Project.

“I don’t see why I can’t do both.”

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